Greeting to all. It is time from another one of these photo diary things. I hope you enjoy your visit here.
The Hawaiian Monk Seal is a highly endangered animal with a population estimated at less than 1,200 and decreasing by approximately 4% per year. Counterintuitively their population is actually increasing in the main Hawaiian Islands but collapsing in the remote Northwestern islands under the protection of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Reasons for their population decline in the NW islands include high infant mortality due to predation by sharks, and entanglement in marine debris, but the main factor seems to be simple starvation of pups due to poorly understood causes. Possibilities include competition from the abundance of large apex predators, including large jacks and sharks, and changes in ocean productivity.
Recent management proposals include relocating some pups from the Northwest Islands to the Main Hawaiian Islands where survival rates are higher. This proposal is facing opposition including from some in the native Hawaiian community, usually fishermen. There is a wide range of opinion about monk seals in the Hawaiian community as documented in THIS report.
While some consider them welcome and natural parts of the Hawaiian environment, some native people consider the seals invasive, akin to the pesty mongoose, because mention of the seals is rare, if not absent in Hawaiian lore. Scientists consider it likely that after Polynesians arrived in the main islands the seals were eradicated by hunting by the Polynesians and harassment by their dogs. In the 19th century intense hunting by newly arrived Europeans in the remote Northwest Islands nearly completed the task. In a sense the seals are new arrivals in the main islands after a six hundred or more year absence. Of course before that they had been here for as long as the main islands themselves have been in existance, several million years.
I was lucky enough to dive with these amazing creatures on a trip to the waters off of Ni'ihau, a privately owned island southwest of Kauai.
Female monk seals are larger than makes and can reach eight feet long and 600 pounds. Dainty they ain't.
And now on to a variety of other photos:
As you see here living black coral is not black. The name comes from the polished "skeleton" of the coral branches. Black coral is the "state gem" of Hawaii but the state is not adequately protecting this disappearing resource. Any black coral with a base diameter over 3/4" can be taken. Ni'ihau is the only place I have seen any black coral at diving depths. This photo of a small colony was taken at 110 feet.
Na Pali Coast, Kauai
As with most of the giant sea cliff in Hawaii this is the remnant of a monsterous landslide. These large volcanic islands are not stable and a normal part of their evolution are these collapses where huge volumes of rocks slide off into the ocean. Fortunately they only happen about every 250,000 years.
The end of August saw the biggest south swell Hawaii has seen in at least a decade. Here are some shots of the big surf. (Of course the surf gets far larger on the north shore in the winter but this is big for "town".
A couple more from the wreck dive known as the Mahi:
And I will leave you with a Moonrise over the Mokuluas.
Everyone have a great evening and please be good humans! Aloha